Luke 14: 7 – 14 (Pentecost 15 - 2016)
“Jesus Exalts Humility”
God chose the foolishness of the cross to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1: 18) and the weak things of the world to shame the strong (27). The very heart of the Gospel, Jesus’ willing sacrifice on a cross, is foolishness to the worldly view of self promotion. It seems like a most necessary evil in our interactions with other human beings. If you don’t promote yourself no one else will and some one is sure to step on you to promote their own ambitions and recognitions. A strong lesson in humility is always a breath of fresh air in the Scriptures.
Humility Defines Christ and his People
Jesus was invited for a dinner party at the house of a Pharisee. The Pharisaical attitudes became quite evident rather quickly. It was typical for the Pharisees to have these dinner parties. They were showcases of pietism without true piety. They were showing off. They were seeking the approval of the VIP’s of the day. They were glad-handing people who would cater to their ego driven hearts. It was likely, that, at the time, it would have been a feather in the cap of the host to have invited the Jesus. He seemed to be gaining popularity among the masses.
The guests were assuming places of highest honor before reading the names tags. Presumptuous snobbery abounded, as obvious as their noses sticking up in the air. Jesus noticed. He took the teachable moment with great class. Perhaps, the one person in the room who had not even begun to look for a place at the table, he graciously says “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He explained: How embarrassing it would be to presume a place of high honor and then be ushered to a lower place! How much different for a person to assumed the lowest place of honor only to be ushered to a much more prominent position!
The Psalms tells us “God lifts up the broken hearted” (Psalm 51). That same Psalm explains that God desires to humble us first by pointing out our sins. He desires truth and purity in the very deepest places of our hearts. We know that because of sinfulness, we do not deserve a place at all in the kingdom of heaven. Snobbery slips easily into our attitudes. We have often thought of ourselves over the needs of others. Knowing that, we realize that we do not deserve to be guests of honor at God’s table. We deserve to be ushered to lowest places in the depths of hell. God’s Word humbles us appropriately.
“God lifts up the broken hearted.” God exalts humility. He rejoices with those who have been humbled before his glory. He lifts us up by pointing us to his Son, Jesus. Jesus was willing to take the lowest place at a dinner table in Jerusalem. He was also willing to be associated with the lowest dregs of humanity. He was also willing to take the seat we all deserved: the hot seat of facing God’s righteous punishment for the sins of the world. Paul to the Philippians explains: “Christ Jesus … humbled himself, taking the very nature of a servant and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. But exalted him to the highest place that could be given … that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Philippians 2: 6 – 11.) Jesus turned our hearts around by accomplishing the very core of his work. His atonement, won for us on Calvary, cleanses us of our selfish ambitions. His humble service to us empowers a new way of thinking for us too. His resurrection is proof that God exalts the humble and proof that his Son’s work of saving us is complete.
Paul introduced that section by reminding us that that is how our lives, and our attitudes, ought to be … like that of Christ Jesus. He wrote: “Do nothing out of self ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2: 3). God the Father exalts humility. He exalts those whose ambitions are selfless. He exalts those who mirror his Son’s self-giving attitude and behavior. He is glad to raise up those who are crushed in spirit. He exalts our humility with his forgiving praise for the sake of his Son, Jesus.
Meanwhile, at the dinner, Jesus continued the lesson by giving a specific application to his host ...
Humility Exalts Others Around You
Again, the Pharisee’s house was no doubt filled with prominent people. Even Jesus would have been thought of as someone you ought to schmooze a little bit. There were often ulterior motives in these Pharisaical dinner parties. It is the way of the world: What’s in it for me? How can I benefit from pleasing certain individuals? Jesus’ host had a bunch of people over who had the ability to do something for him in return. It is called belly serving.
Jesus uses another illustration, not only to reinforce his point about humility, but also to provide a specific way in which his host could put true humility into practice. Jesus explained: Next time you have a party don’t invite your friends, relatives, and those who have the resources to return the favor. Instead, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and then you will be blessed.” There is more meaningful reward in showing generosity to those who cannot return the favor. The reward is in knowing that our motivations are pure and genuine.
Think about that from the perspective our congregation of believers. We are currently enjoying a healthy prospect list for outreach to the souls in our neighborhood. Our visitor list is growing each week. Who are our welcomed guests? Whom do we hope will fill the rest of these pews? Our neighborhoods are growing. Our opportunities to reach out to all sorts of cultures and classes of people are growing more obvious. They are all souls for whom Jesus gave his life. In view of his generosity, we continue to position ourselves to welcome them all to feast of the Gospel in Word and sacrament. As Paul said “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit, On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like people sent from God.”
Think of Jesus’ lesson also in terms of our own personal lives. Random Acts of Kindness is one of the more pleasant phrases coined in our society. What a novel thought if more often acts of kindness were done for the poor, the lame, and the blind … the helpless! There are people in your lives who need your deeds of love. A life style of humility in Christ is honored to lift up others; is honored to exalted the gifts of others; is honored to see others shine while we take a back seat. There is true blessing and reward, Jesus says, in demonstrating his love to those who can only pay us back with the smiles that stem from their grateful hearts! And Jesus adds that the truer reward will be evident to you “at the resurrection of the righteous!” Imagine the joy in meeting someone in heaven who was brought to Christ by someone else, perhaps even by you!
Jesus is exalts humility. Jesus defines humility to the point of death on a cross. He continues to teach our hearts true humility. Let his Name be exalted. Use us, Lord Jesus to help the helpless with motives that are pure and generous thoughts stemming from your love. Strengthen in our hearts a genuine love for all people, because of Christ Jesus who died and rose again for us all! In his Name we ask it, Amen.